The Beau Bennett Story
With the Penguins recalling their 2010 first round draft choice Beau Bennett earlier today, we figured it might be a good time to take a step back and revisit the road that brought Bennett to this point in his career.
With the ever-changing situation on the Evgeni Malkin line in Pittsburgh, early indications are Bennett may inherit a spot on a Penguins top six that could use some magic at the wing position.
So, if you aren’t familiar with who Beau Bennett is, or you just want a refresher course, let’s step back and take a look at what brought Beau Bennett to what may be his NHL debut with the Penguins.
Part 1: The Flying Vees
When Bennett was drafted 20th overall by the Penguins in 2010, he became the highest drafted Californian in NHL history. While he may have roots on the west coast, his hockey career began to flourish in Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Although his rights were owned by the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Bennett opted to take the junior A route and instantly started out on the top line of the Penticton Vees. His centerman was a talented set-up guy in Denver Manderson. Manderson, who did a few spells with the Guelph storm of the OHL prior to arriving at Penticton and a who is a current member of the Wheeling Nailers, registered 42 assists in 34 games in the season prior to Bennett’s arrival.
It became clear at a very early stage that Manderson and Bennett were going to be a dynamic duo. By the time the season drew to a close, the two had combined for 233 points in a total of 106 games played. Bennett personally finished the year with 41 goals and 79 assists.
Bennett’s roots were in roller hockey, and his ability to dangle on an individual level and release James Neal-esque one-timers from the middle of the ice were a real testament to that. It was his trigger ability alongside a talented centerman that lead us to put him at the top of our draft day wish list both on this site and on ThePensblog leading up to the 2010 draft.
We personally had Bennett at 24 in the Faceoff-Factor 2010 draft ranking, but he was ranked as high as 17 and as low as 34 on other outlets. The general understanding of Bennett at the time was he could be a bit of a project. His size, competition level in the BCHL, and toughness were all negatives mentioned by scouts. He simply wasn’t as well known of a commodity as his peers within the same range.
The Penguins were eventually able to nab him at 20th. Here’s what we said about Bennett at the time:
Marshall: Heâ€™s a complete wildcard in this race, we both have him at 25. That said, no one has scored more points as a rookie in the last seven years of BCHL hockey as Beau Bennett has. When it comes to pure offensive talent, Bennett has all the tools. Heâ€™s an excellent skater, he has a solid shot, and his vision makes him a threat distributing the puck. What makes him an attractive option to me is the fact that he played alongside another BCHL star in Denver Manderson. Bennett and Manderson put on a show, and Bennett proved that putting him with a talented center can produce lucrative results. Thatâ€™s exactly the situation we have here. It might be a bit of a stretch if some more attractive options are on the table, but Iâ€™m hoping the Penguins can reach for this kid when they select their first pick this year. Bennettâ€™s offensive upside is so high that it could be worth it. Heâ€™s headed to Denver University this fall to pursue hockey at the next level.
Farkas: A relative unknown going into the year, Bennett developed in Junior â€˜Aâ€™ hockey this year. Has some interesting weaponry at his disposal. Owns quite a shot, a laser that can get to the roof in a hurry. Runs the power play from the side wall and dishes the puck quite well. Decent skater that is willing to participate defensively. Has very good hockey sense. Heâ€™s a bit of a project. He needs to hit the weight room for starters. That will help the whole size/strength thing but also will hopefully wander into high traffic areas a little more often. Might be an awkward splice, but he could be Travis Zajac meets Kris Beech.
Part 2: “...He’s got too much ‘roller hockey’ in him…”
Bennett moved on to the University of Denver to cut his teeth at the NCAA level on some pretty talented hockey teams within that program.
Bennett’s first season was a solid one. With limited ice time, he was able to amass 9 goals and 16 assists in 37 games. He did miss the first part of the season with nagging knee injury. However, despite registering nearly 100 hits his freshman season, many people start to take a dislike to Bennett’s penchant for going around and not through the opposition. The term “roller hockey” started to get thrown around in some circumstances as a negative connotation in regards to his purported aversion to the physical aspect of the game.
His sophomore season was cut short by bad wrist injury that forced him to miss the final 29 games of the regular season. A wrist injury that, by Bennett’s own admission, wasn’t 100% healed into late 2012.
He finished his career at Denver with 13 goals in 47 games and not a ton of experience to draw on. Despite that fact, he signed a pro contract with the Penguins in the spring of 2012 that put the wheels in motion for his pro debut in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Part 3: “It’s almost like the game is scripted, and he’s an actor playing out a part…”
Bennett entered his first year at WB/S as what I’d consider a very talented enigma. It wasn’t anything Bennett did wrong, but his time at Denver was a little inconclusive for a player that was considered to be a project from the get-go.
That being said, it didn’t take long for hockey fans to figure out why Beau Bennett was a first round draft pick. Dan Bylsma once waxed that one could “envision him as a pro player.” Bennett has offensive tools that you can’t teach. His ability with the puck, the release on his shot, and his knack for finding scoring areas and getting good wood on the puck is what makes him a top flight talent.
The quote in the above title is courtesy of Jason Iacona in a segment we did prior to the start of the truncated regular season. The compliment was in regards to Bennett’s ability to simply understand how the offensive approach to the game worked.
Now, Bennett finds himself in Pittsburgh on the wings of a recent callup that was preceded by a trip to the team doctor to evaluate a lower-body injury. In his 35 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he registered 7 goals and 18 assists.
Many that went to the scrimmage or rookie camp throughout the last few years know that Bennett can draw you to the edge of the seat when he’s got the puck. But is this call-up more about timing due to the situation on the Malkin wing, or has Bennett really shown that he’s ready for the big show?
Dan Bylsma seems to think its the additions he’s made to his game that have enabled him to reach this point. “He’s added to his game defensively, puck-managerment wise, playing in the offensive zone, showing he can play in those puck battle areas, down-low areas both power-play and five on five. That’s what he’s done this year, in addition to the skill and the playmaking he has. He’s really earned this opportunity to come up and play.”
History tells us that Beau Bennett not only enhances the strengths of his teammates, but his tools enable him to be a deadly threat in the offensive zone. The only question that’s left to ask is whether or not he’s ready to do it regularly at the NHL level, and we might find the answer to that soon enough.